Regarding the modern opinion on global climate circumstances, there are several names in the upper echelons of our government that tend to stand out as a result of this – most of them for reasons pertaining to their assertions that the scientific community has gotten it all wrong. One of these names is James Frederick Bridenstine.
Born on June 5th, 1975 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Bridenstine became an active member of the United States military in 1998 when he served as a Navy pilot and remained active until 2007, later joining the Reserves in 2010 through to 2015. In 2012, he was elected to the United States House of Representatives, representing Oklahoma’s 1st district by defeating Republican John Sullivan, a five-term incumbent, and then Democratic nominee John Olsen. He retained his seat in the House in 2016 and was viewed as a potential candidate as administrator for NASA or Secretary of the Air Force under the newly-established Trump administration. He was indeed later nominated for the position of NASA administrator on September 1, 2017.
This possibility of heading the program at NASA brought about much controversy, as many who opposed Bridenstine’s candidacy did so on the grounds of their beliefs that the administrator of NASA should have a strong background within the scientific community, and more specifically the space program itself, as opposed to being brought in from the political arena. Senator Bill Nelson of Florida and a one-time Payload Specialist who had worked for NASA had particularly strong opinions against the nomination.
Possibly the greatest reason for the controversy of Bridenstine’s nomination by President Trump is his shared belief with the President regarding climate change – that being that climate change isn’t a concern to the American public or the world. Bridenstine expressed this opinion in an interview where he stated in an interview, “If you look at the Chinese and the Russian and the Indian production of carbon emissions, it is overwhelmingly massive compared to the carbon footprint of the United States of America.”
Contrary to this statement, statistics as recent as 2015 had shown that the United States was the second-largest contributor to worldwide carbon emissions (behind China), and that Russia and India combined did not equal the output of the United States.
Bridenstine has also gone on record on the House floor, downplaying the effects of climate change and global warming. He gave a speech in 2013, in which he said, “Global temperatures stopped rising 10 years ago.”
Despite his beliefs regarding climate change and the questionable background in the scientific community, Bridenstine has been vocal about the advantages the space program could provide to the United States, and here are many who support his nomination and the awareness he brings to the Capitol on their behalf. He has already garnered support from space industry businesses who believe he could help set a strong foundation for deep space infrastructure as well as private universities who conduct weather-related scientific studies. President of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, Antonio Busalacchi, wrote, “We appreciate his deep understanding of the importance of improved weather prediction for the U.S. Economy and national security…”
While he may show an appreciation for weather- and space-related services specific to the country’s economy and security, there are many who still remain skeptical and criticize his apparent inability to see the close relation that climate change has to weather-related science.